Hike service

Forest Service offers tips for safe Lake Tahoe recreation

The waters of Lake Tahoe are cold and those who venture into the water should be prepared.
Bill Rozak | Tahoe Grandstand

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer. The USDA Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit provided links and safety tips to help ensure a safe Memorial Day weekend at Lake Tahoe.

“We are anticipating a large influx of visitors to the Lake Tahoe Basin this Memorial Day weekend,” said public affairs specialist Lisa Herron. “Visitors should expect crowded roads, parking areas, trails, trailheads and recreation areas. To ensure an enjoyable weekend, plan ahead, know before you go, be patient, arrive early, and always recreate responsibly.

Most beaches and campgrounds in the Lake Tahoe National Forest opened in mid-May, but some backcountry campgrounds, recreation sites, forest gates and forest roads are still closed. Check the opening dates on the LTBMU Recreational Conditions Report (scroll down) and be sure to book campgrounds in advance. Forest gates and forest paths are being opened. Check the opening dates on the LTBMU Motor Vehicle Use Cards.

The Tallac Historic Site and Taylor Creek Visitor Center officially open June 2, but the grounds are open. Until these sites are fully open, some services such as restrooms and trash removal are not available, so plan ahead and pack up all trash. Where pets are allowed, always clean up after them and be sure to prepare dog bags. Until the parking lots open, park vehicles off the road, avoid parking on vegetation and do not block access barriers.

Campfires, charcoal and fireworks

Residents and visitors must do their part to make Tahoe’s wildfires ready. If you see something, say something by immediately reporting illegal activity to 911. Learn how to be prepared, informed and involved at tahoelivingwithwildfire.com.

Lake Tahoe National Forest Lands are subject to year-round fire restrictions. Wood and charcoal fires are only permitted in the metal fire pits and grills provided in open and serviced campgrounds. Unless restricted, propane stoves and appliances with on/off valves are permitted with a valid CA Campfire Permit.

All types of fireworks for personal use are illegal in the Lake Tahoe basin due to the fire danger they pose.


Lake Tahoe is bear country. Help keep Tahoe bears wild by properly securing food, garbage, and other scented items. Never approach bears or cubs, always keep your distance. Do not feed bears or other wildlife, it is illegal. Feeding wildlife encourages them to enter human-occupied areas to look for food and human garbage and disrupts their natural feeding habits. Bear canisters are highly recommended in the backcountry. Visit TahoeBears.org for more helpful information.

Cold water

Cold water shock is real and can be life threatening. Visitors should exercise caution when swimming and participating in water activities at Lake Tahoe. Wearing a life jacket, even if you are a good swimmer, greatly increases your chances of survival. Visit these links to learn more about cold water safety and how to prevent cold water shock.

Caldor Fire Zone

Recreation enthusiasts should exercise caution when recreating in the Caldor 2021 fire area. effects of the fire. Hikers and mountain bikers should be on the lookout for fallen trees and branches. Learn more at go.usa.gov/xzzaf.

Leave no trace

The trash and debris left behind can be harmful and even deadly to wildlife. It poses a hazard to human health and degrades Lake Tahoe. Each year, volunteers pick up thousands of pounds of trash left behind after holiday weekends. Plan ahead and bring a trash bag in case the trash cans and dumpsters are full or unavailable. Be part of the solution. Pack your own garbage. To learn more about the Leave No Trace principles, visit lnt.org/.

Backcountry Safety

Backcountry enthusiasts should always tell a family member or friend where they are going, when they plan to return, and stick to the plan. Always check the weather before you go. Sturdy shoes, proper clothing and gear are essential, and an old-fashioned paper map and compass can come in handy. Always travel with a friend, never alone. Keep in mind that mobile devices may not work in remote areas. Develop an emergency plan in case you cannot call for help.


The weather in the mountains can change quickly. Summers are generally hot in the afternoon and cold at night. Afternoon thunderstorms are normal and snow is possible any month of the year. Be prepared for changeable weather conditions and bring clothes that will keep you warm and dry. Always check the forecast before you go and follow the National Weather Service on social media for the latest updates.

For more information on responsible recreation, visit the Know Before You Go and Recreate Responsibly websites.